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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

Chapter Sixteen
POET OF THE RED CLIFF

Cj-U TUNGPO now lived an enchanted life. Perhaps Huangchow
^was a sordid little town, but infinite leisure, die landscape, a poet's
sensitive imagination, and devotion to the moonlight and to wine pro-
duced a powerful combination to make the poet's life what it was.
After the farm was planted and he was free from financial worries, he
began to enjoy each day for what it could give. He had a group of
friends whose time was as free as his own, and who were, like him,
poor in cash but rich in leisure. Among these was an incomparable
Li Chiao, not known to posterity otherwise than by Su Tungpo's record
si his great capacity for sleep. After lunch, when the friends were play-
ing chess, Li would go to fie on a couch and fall asleep. After every
few rounds of chess, Li would turn about and remark: "I have just
slept one round. How many rounds have you played?" Su remarked
in his journal that Li was playing alone on a chessboard supported
by four legs (the bed) and with one black piece (the sleeper). "Dur-
ing the game, there's winning and losing, but at the end, neither the
chess nor the player exists." It was a kind of unsubstantial dream life,
|&hich Su says was beautifully expressed by the following verse of
fOuyang Shiu:

"A cool night, the sound of a flute, and the moon upon the mountains—
A darkening valley, a riot of flowers, and the wanderer lost his way.
After a game of chess, one is not aware that a whole generation of

time has passed.
The wine is finished, time hangs heavy, and the traveller thinks of

home."

Su Tungpo continued to live both at the farm Snow Hall and the
Linkao House in the city, and he passed daily between them. That
little stretch of less than a third of a mile became probably the most
-celebrated dirty mud path in history. After passing the small shops in
die city, one came upon that stretch of road called the Yellow Mud
Flat, leading to the rolling foothills. It seemed that everything around
was yellow, except for the green trees and bamboos. He had built the
Yellow Tower at Suchow. He was living at Huangchow, which meant
"The Yellow District", and he daily crossed the Yellow Mud Flat to
reach the Eastern Slope under the Yellow Knoll He had changed his
scholar's cap and gown for the jacket of an ordinary farmer so that the
common people would not recognise him. Daily he covered this stretch.

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